Police were created to serve and protect our communities, but over the years, the trust between police and communities have dwindled. We can’t forget the tragic incident of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and sadly, a host of many others, which has led some individuals to lose trust in their law enforcement. To help rebuild this trust, some individuals have tried to find different ways to bridge the gap between the community and police officers.
There is one New York City community that has tried civilian policing. The organization is called Brownsville in Violence Out and they have civilians prevent crimes that range from shoplifting to assaults. This civilian patrol takes place over a span of five days, and any 911 calls are forwarded to the civilian responders rather than police officers. Law enforcement is present in plain clothes to look out for the civilians and can engage if needed.
I find this experiment to be interesting, and I can understand the concept, but I don’t think I would want that to happen in the city of Houston. There is too much crime going on in our communities and we need experienced and trained officers on our streets. Building trust is one thing, but police presence is needed. There are ways to rebuild trust between communities and law enforcement without having civilians act as police officers.
Some of these things do take place, but sometimes they do not happen on a regular basis. Consistent community events would be great as families from all over can speak with officers and get to know them in a different setting. For some individuals, their first time engaging with a police officer may be during an arrest, an accident, etc., but I think that is part of the problem. When something happens and police have to be called, it is usually because something has gone wrong. In addition, having police officers go to the schools regularly and talk to kids and engage in fun activities with them can have a positive impact on how they view police officers. If you have this positive engagement at a young age, it could help bridge that gap in the long run. Some cities have even implemented a mental health team that will take certain calls that may involve a mentally ill person. This is to help create a more positive experience for everyone involved. The media could play a role and show more positive things that police officers do in the community. I am not saying that these things will solve the problem, I just think it’s a good start.
I can understand why there is so much distrust between police officers and the community because of history, police brutality, personal experiences, etc. We still have a long way to go, but police are needed for the greater good of the community.